THE BIRDS OF KILLINGSWORTH by Robert D. San Souci

THE BIRDS OF KILLINGSWORTH

Age Range: 6 - 9
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In contrast to the common tendency to set straightforward stories for children in rhyme, San Souci (The Silver Charm, below, etc.) has taken a narrative poem and set it in prose. Unfortunately, this adaptation of Longfellow’s poem of the same name does not quite work as a picture book. Although the proto-environmental theme of the original will appeal to contemporary children, the modified narrative is lengthier and less cohesive than would be expected in a story written explicitly and originally for children of picture-book age. Only some of the character and story line changes are mentioned in the author’s note, and only some are successful. That schoolchildren participate in saving birds the townspeople have voted to kill for the sake of the crops does make the story more relevant to young readers, but confusion results from the changing of the character of Almira from a helpless townswoman with no voice in the matter to a vocal supporter of the birds. She argues in favor of the birds for the sake of their “sweet songs.” The Squire later admits she was right, but it was not the lack of birdsong that convinced the townspeople they were wrong. Rather, they dislike the resulting overpopulation of insects, an eventuality the schoolteacher warns about in the original. A nice touch in both versions is Almira’s marriage to the schoolteacher amid the tune of restored birdsong. Root’s (The Storytelling Princess, 2001, etc.) soft, delicate watercolor-and-pencil illustrations in pastel shades alternate between spot illustrations and full-page depictions of events framed by detailed borders, which add a folkloric air to the story. Occasional humorous detail for careful readers include a hunter tripping over his gun as a raccoon leaps onto his head, presumably in an attempt to protect its fellow creatures. Despite its narrative faults, this adaptation is attractively presented, and does have academic value: adults can use it to introduce children to Longfellow’s poetry and to environmentalism. Without an adult’s encouragement, however, young readers may not pick this up or stay with it on their own. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8037-2111-0
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2002




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